Plain Vanilla


When asked whether I want chocolate or vanilla, I tend to choose vanilla. There is something undeniabley wonderful about the simplicity of the flavor. Don’t get me wrong, I love chocolate, and I have small pieces of dark chocolate every single day. However, vanilla is often overlooked.

When we first moved to the UAE I have a hard time finding vanilla extract. Sure, there was imitation vanilla, and I could find vanilla flavouring on the shelves of every grocery store and hypermarket. But vanilla extract was no where to be seen. It then dawned on me that it contained alcohol. In order to purchase alcohol you need to have an alcohol license. Luckily, I had this particular document, so I went into one of the liquor stores (which is a separate adventure in itself). I was out of luck. I did find small, I am talking small bottles of vanilla extract in a great Australian grocer/market, but I mean the way I use vanilla it would be gone after two recipes.

I noted my frustrations on Facebook – you know, about not finding vanilla extract etc, and two friends immediately responded. They both told me how easy it was to make my own. Umm, why hadn’t I thought of this before? Mason jar, vodka or rum or even bourbon, and vanilla beans. And vanilla beans are EVERYWHERE here. So I gave it a go, and made the most wonderful tasting and smelling vanilla I have ever had. I used vodka, but I am going to use rum next time. One of the benefits about livng in the UAE is that I can buy the really good rum here – the rum from Cuba – so Cuban vanilla extract will be the next batch.

NOTE: this is not a quick process. It takes about 2 months. Make sure you have some vanilla extract on hand if you know you are going to need some in the next 2 months!

1 16 oz mason jar

1 1/2 C vodka (or rum or bourbon)

2 vanilla beans, carefully split lengthwise (best way to do this is with a pairing knife and steady hands)

Make sure the mason jar is clean. Put in the vanilla beans and pour in your alcohol of choice. Store in a cool dark place for about 2 months. Every week, go and visit your vanilla, and give it a gentle shake. 

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